What are the most exciting things in business today?

Robert D. Hormats is the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs. He was formerly vice chairman of Goldman Sachs (International) and managing director of Goldman, Sachs & Co.

Hormats has also served as ambassador and deputy US Trade Representative, and senior deputy assistant secretary for Economic and Business Affairs at the US Department of State. He was a senior staff member on the National Security Council and senior economic advisor to National Security Advisors Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Hormats has received the French Legion of Honor and Arthur Fleming Award.

Mr. Hormats has been a visiting lecturer at Princeton University and is a member of the Board of Visitors of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Dean's Council of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Mr. Hormats' publications include Abraham Lincoln and the Global Economy; American Albatross: The Foreign Debt Dilemma; and Reforming the International Monetary System. Mr. Hormats earned a B.A. from Tufts University with a concentration in economics and political science; an M.A. and a Ph.D. in international economics from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What are the most exciting things in business today 

Robert Hormats: There is still a great deal of innovation. There’s innovation in the energy sector.

There’s innovation in pharmaceutical industry. New drugs are being discovered all the time. Perhaps not as rapidly as one would hope to cure the major diseases of our time, but a lot of technical progress is being made there. A lot of brilliant people are working hard on developing new drugs.

There is also a sense among people in the business community that they know they have to play a broader role, a more robust role in the global economy. And they’re doing it quite well. I think the business community has a greater sense of the opportunities available than perhaps it did 10 years ago in many of these areas. And I have a lot of confidence that American business can respond to these challenges. But I think it’s also incumbent upon American business not just to look after its own interests in running their company’s profitably, although obviously one has to do that. That’s critical for any company if it wants to survive, and be very profitable, and enhance shareholder value, and improve the opportunities for its workers; but I think American business also have to play a greater role in the policy area.

American business should be a leader in emphasizing the importance of improving the American educational system. American business should be a leader in emphasizing that we need to reduce dependence on imported energy because we’re so vulnerable to disruptions there. American business should be the leader in supporting mid-career and late-career training programs or retraining programs for workers who are displaced by change.

American business should be insistent that the federal government address these long term financial issues of entitlements, not just sweep them under the rug or kick the can down the road. Business has to, if it wants to enhance its own prospects for the future, be very actively involved in the policy debate, and be a constructive player, and make sure that we don’t have this two-tiered society – a society divided between those who feel they’re benefiting from change, benefiting from globalization, and people who feel that change, and progress, and globalization are a threat.

And if they want to get the best employees in the future, they certainly have to be at the forefront of the effort to strengthen and enhance prospects for the education system. Because if we don’t have well trained students who can deal with mathematics, and physics, and chemistry, and biology at a very high level, American companies simply will not have the people they need for the next decade or two. And the American system will suffer, not to mention these individuals who won’t have jobs or won’t have good jobs, and will be deprived of the potential.

And that’s particularly true for minorities and people in the immigrant community. They need to get the very best possible education because they’re going to be a growing factor in the workforce. And unless we’re able to do that, and unless business is able to make this a high priority and willing to make it a high priority, those people will be alienated from our society. And our society won’t have the benefit of their talents, of their skills, of their creativity. And therefore the individuals lose and the society loses.

 

Recorded On: July 25, 2007


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